Image © Sound Resources 2004
More Glass Hammer
The Middle Earth Album
* with interview
A Remedy Raised
All This Time
(29 May 2004) The long-awaited first DVD by Chattanooga, Tennessee's progressive rock band Glass Hammer is entitled Lex Live (Sound Resources (USA) SR 7112, 2004). The album showcases Glass Hammer’s legendary eight-piece NEARfest 2003 lineup: Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Walter Moore, Matt Mendians, Eric Parker and female vocalists Susie Bogdanowicz, Flo Paris and Bethany Warren. Glass Hammer's highly acclaimed Lex Rex album (review) is performed in near-entirety, along with music from Chronometree (review) and Perelandra. As a bonus, the DVD also includes further footage from NEARfest 2003, interviews and a music video of "Tales Of The Great Wars."
The main feature of the DVD is a live performance filmed at Chatanooga's Rhythm & Brews (website). From the website, enthusiasts will discover a high-energy concert, and an edgier incarnation of the band than the band's studio albums reveal. Progressive-metal drummer Matt Mendians sees to that, as does front-man and guitarist Walter Moore. The keyboard sounds are as big as ever though, and prog-icon Fred Schendel delivers his greatest performance ever. Needless to say, the Hammond organ is dominant in the mix! Steve Babb's bass, pedal and keyboard parts are superb. Eric Parker contributes acoustic and electric guitar to the live performance. Sarah Snyder makes a brief appearance as well.
The DVD features various backing and solo contributions from Glass Hammer's three stunning female vocalists: Susie Bogdanowicz, Flo Paris and Bethany Warren. Fans will enjoy having the ability to see the band members and supporting artists performing in a live environment. Photography is good and typical of music video with frequent cuts and angle changes. The performance, recording quality and production are all notably good. The recording--which runs a full 122 minutes--features stereo audio rather than Dolby 5.1.
The main feature includes performances of "Chronometree," "Tales Of The Great Wars," "One King," "Further Up, Further In," "Cup of Trembling," "Chronos Deliver," "When We Were Young" and "Heaven." A progressive masterpiece in almost every respect of the recording, the video could have been improved with subtitles or band members making verbal introductions of the song names for the uninitiated.
Vocal production is typical of Glass Hammer recordings which means at times it is hard to make out the lyrics when all of the vocalists are singing at the same time. Some of the camera angles, like the one of the drummer, get a little boring about a half hour into the gig. No booklet or liner notes other than the outer cover were included in our review copy. A booklet with further information and still photos extracted from the DVD would have been a nice addition.
The bonus material is as exciting for enthusiasts as the band's concert footage from the Rhythm & Brews performance. It opens with a "behind the scenes" peek into the souncheck and discussions with each of the artists about their contribution. A "Private Concert" recorded acoustically in one of the band member's hotel room at the Marriott adjacent to the NEARfest 2003 venue (Trenton War Memorial) includes a couple of nice renditions filmed and recorded on fans' video cameras as well as an extract from the festival floor including footage of the choir. Professionally recorded NEARfest 2003 audio was combined with fan filming for that segment of the video. The band's music video concludes this section of the DVD.
Lex Live is an essential DVD for Glass Hammer enthusiasts, especially those that can't get to Chatanooga for the relatively rare live performance of the band. Glass Hammer have primarily been a studio project and live performances have not been frequent. The DVD brings the eight players together for a two hour collection of great performances that fans can watch at their leisure.
Be sure to check out our feature on Glass Hammer's latest studio album Shadowlands. It includes an in-depth interview with Fred Schendel, Steve Babb and Susie Bogdanowicz. Also check out our coverage of side projects with Eric Parker, A Remedy Raised (review) and All This Time (review). Lex Live is an excellent step forward for the band, both in capturing their
live sound and on-stage persona, especially in the run up to their Live at NEARfest album, due out mid-summer 2004.